Shoppers who enter one of many Thomas Kinkade Signature Galleries across the nation may feel as though they had walked right into one of Kinkade's paintings. Like the light in his paintings, the lighting here is soft, controlled, restful. Like the paintings, the gallery is designed to break the hectic pace at which contemporary suburbanites move, to seduce them into an aesthetic interlude between the items on their demanding to-do lists.
As Randall Balmer reports in this issue (see "The Kinkade Crusade," p. 48), Thomas Kinkade's organization merchandises an experience of tranquillity, light, and natural beauty. Kinkade's work is not about merchandising, however. He is waging a moral crusade against what he sees as dominant themes in Modern art: destruction of the beautiful, elitist contempt for the audience, and "the whole Modernist lie ... that art is about the artist."
Kinkade's painted visions of natural beauty and simpler times are executed with enormous skill, and instead of displaying contempt for viewers, he befriends them and welcomes them into the hope-filled world of his imagination.
Thus Kinkade tells Balmer, "I love to create beautiful worlds where light dances and peace reigns. I like to portray a world without a Fall." He views his work as "a very thoroughgoing form of evangelism."
But he also describes his work in the polarizing rhetoric of culture war. The terms campaign for culture, cultural battle, a crusade to turn the tide in the arts, sabotage, Trojan horse, and enemy camp march through his explanations of his work. From Kinkade's rhetoric, readers could easily conclude that his way is the only way for a Christian artist in our time.
There are indeed other ways. And in fact, Christian artists have been exploring ...1
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